Filklore Posts

June 29, 2004
Got out and about by 10am, and headed down to the Intrepid museum area. The main exhibit is the Intrepid, an aircraft carrier converted into a museum of sea, air and space. The exhibits it contains are interesting enough, but I was fascinated by the vessel itself, and explored every bit that I thought I would be allowed in. I learned a few things as well – as a flag ship, the Intrepid actually had two bridges, one above the other. The upper bridge – the Captain’s Bridge – was for the control of the Intrepid itself; while the lower bridge – the Admiral’s Bridge was for strategic command of the fleet it commanded.

Having obtained several recommendations for places to eat in New York, I let you all down by having lunch in the mess room of the Intrepid, due to hunger, and a desire not to cut the visit short. However, I did have the good grace not to go for the MacDonalds on offer there, and instead had a quite tasty turkey, ham and cheese salad sandwich (UK readers – a sandwich is *not* a slice of meat between two slices of bread, it is a whopping great roll, with about half a pound of sliced cooked meat in it.).

June 28, 2004
“New York, just as I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything.”I arrive in New York just before midday, having had a lift from Rene to Philadelphia station. I only have my pack and sleep machine with me, so I simply walk down 7th avenue until I reach Times Square, and my hotel. It is too early to check in, so I leave my bags at the porter’s desk, and go out to explore for a couple of hours.One of the first things I see is that Alfred Molina is staring in a revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” – I mark that down as a definite possibility for an evening show. I also pick up a leaflet for the New York City Pass, which will give me entry to 6 attraction for just $48:Intrepid Sea Air Space MuseumGuggenheim MuseumMuseum of Modern ArtCircle Line 2 hour harbour cruiseAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryEmpire State BuildingAs all but one of these was on my list of thing to check out (guess which one didn’t make the list), it seems a good choice to use as the basis of my visit.I decide I may as well have lunch while I wait for my room, and so find myself in a Red Lobster, drinking iced tea, and eating shrimp, clams and crab cakes.After lunch, it is still a bit early I to check into my room, so I make a decision, and book a ticket for “Fiddler on the Roof”, for Wedneday night. I know that I could possibly pick up cut price tickets on the day, but that would mean returning to Times Square on the afternoon of the performance, and queuing up for ticket returns. Given the amount of time I have in New York, I decide to pay box office price, guarantee myself a good seat and avoid disrupting my day.After that, I book into my room, which is a compact but quite wonderful suite (queen sized bedroom, bathroom, and lounge, including fridge and microwave) on the 42nd floor and has views of both Times Square and the Hudson River.As a hotel that I found on the Internet, it is a complete success.After freshening up, I walk back to Penn Station, to take the Long Island Railway out to Dave’s.I arrive just as Dave is walking around to the Laundrette, so we walk round together and collect his washing. The we load my case in his car and drive to a Mexican restaurant for Dinner.Dave is going over to a friends later tonight, to help them move, so we both get on the New York train, although Dave gets off to change at Jamaica.I walk from Penn Station to the hotel again, this time with my case. After unpacking and having a bath, I go out again at about 10:30, for a walk.I discover an Internet Cafe near to my hotel, which will give me unlimited net access for 5 days for just $10. This will be my communication line to the world for my time in New York.

June 27, 2004
I wake up at 9am, but there are others still sleeping downstairs, so I read for a while. The the door rings, and Eyal arrives. He is giving a lift to Merav and Jon, so people gradually get up and breakfast is had.After the three leave for New York, the rest of us drive to Philadelphia’s “Antique Row” area where there is a “Culinary Festival” today. There is various foods available, and live entertainment and music.Later we go for a short drive around Philadelpia, and end up at the Japanese House and Garden – a traditional house, built in Japan in the 1959’s, and shipped first to New York, then later to Philidelphia. The house is quite interesting, and the surrounding gardens and carp pool are beautiful and peaceful.When we get back, Mark starts a fire, and we have barbecue – steaks with corn and salad.

June 26, 2004
I get up around 9am, and have breakfast with Mark and Rene. I then take the number 34 trolley into the city.I can take the trolley further into town, but I decide to get off at the 30th Street main station, as the Franklin Museum of Science is only a short walk away. I discover that the museum appears to be predominately aimed at kids, which surprises me, as there is another museum expressely for children (called “The Please Touch Me Museum”) in the same area. Still, it has some interesting exhibits, particularly the train room, with various steam locomotives.My ticket includes a session in the Planetarium, but I am too late to make the 11am show, and don’t want to stay until the next show at 1:15pm. I check and find that my ticket will allow readmission, so I decide to come back later, if time allows.I walk down J F Kennedy Boulevard, into town. Tickets for Independance Hall are sold out today, so I look around the Independance Hall Visitors Centre instead, then I queue to stare at the Liberty Bell for a few moments.I make my way back to the Franklin Museum, stopping at various shops on the way, including a lunch break for the famous Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich.. I arrive in time for the Planatarium show, which is a bit of an anticlimax. For a start, they are using a perfectly good 360 degree dome planetarum for a multimedia show that would have been more suited to a conventional cinema, with very little showing of star-scapes, and lots of flashy split screens. Secondly, the show is spoilt by the constant crying of two babies on opposite sides of the hall whenever the room went black. I had no real problem with the little girl sitting behind me, asking questions of her dad – at least the questions were about the show. But I think taking babies into a show like this is kind of thoughtless, both for the baby and other people, and not leaving when the baby cries is even more so.I walk to 30th Street again, and return to Mark and Rene’s place for the housefilk. There are familiar faces – Ben, Merav, Jon, Eyal from the con; my “stalkers” Paul and Hilary, who appear to be following me around, being at the con and the previous house filk in Boston; and some folk I haven’t met before – Leah, and Ben’s girlfriend Rachel. Not forgetting Mark and Jeremy, of course, Rene and her cousin, and a colleague of Mark’s, from work. The evening was a success, and fun was had by all.

June 25, 2004
Dave has to get up early to take his car to the garage. As it happens, I wake up early too – when he returns, we walk to a nearby diner, and order breakfast – I have waffles with sausage.The day has started out cloudy, but it is now clearing and bright sunshine. We go back to Dave’s apartment and pick up our sunglasses before setting off again, in the opposite direction. After a couple of miles we reach our objective – Best Buy – where I eventually manage to buy a set of noise-cancelling headphones. It was far harder than it should have been, as their computerised till system is slow and decidely unreliable, ans seems unable to accept a purchase from someone from the UK. According to their system, customers can only be from the USA, Canada or Mexico, nor can it accept UK phone numbers, even though the field is mandatory. After we make the purchase and have left, I am further annoyed to find that a “free” trial of a music download service they offered me has, in fact, been linked to the credit card I used to buy the headphones, and unless I cancel it within 14 days, the card will receive a monthly charge. Nothing had been said about this, and I resolve to cancel the service without even trying it, and make a very strongly worded complaint to the management about it.Dave was hoping his car would be ready, but it isn’t, so we walk back and call for a taxi to take me to Wantagh Station. I catch a local train, and arrive at Penn Station, with 5 minutes before my train to Philadelpia leaves.Mark meets me at Philadelphia station, and we get the trolley to his home. I meet Rene and Jeremy, their son, and then Mark and I head out to a store to pick up supplies for tomorrow’s food.When we get back, Rene is cooking, and we have fried chicken, corn and asparagus, with desert to follow later in the evening. We sit and chat until about 10:30, when I come over tired, and head for bed.

June 24, 2004
Dave is only working until lunchtime today, so I stay in for the morning, and catch up on my journal and stuff.When Dave gets home we drive out to the West Hills County Park -the area is forested, with trails for walkers and horseback riders, and it reminds me of some parts of Epping Forest, near to where I grew up. We spend a couple of hours walking round, then realise we are getting hungry.Dave takes me to a kosher deli for an early dinner. I order an open sandwich of pastrami and corned beef, and my plate arrive, piled with more meat than I would have thought possible, along with fries and pickles.We walk off the meal around a more formal park, which includes the open-air Harry Chapin Theatre, where the are frequently free concerts.We then look around some shops – Borders for books and DVDs, a brilliant guitar and drum shop, and CompUSA, before going back to Dave’s place.

June 23, 2004
Dave is at work today, so I am heading down to the beach for the day. I misread a bus timetable, which means I spend 40 minutes waiting for a service that doesn’t begin until next week – I am not the only one, as there are also two girls there, who have been waiting for the bus. When we discover our mistake, the girls give up, but I decide to carry on, and take a taxi instead.The taxi drops me at the central mall of the beach, where there is a restaurant, so I grab a burger as an early lunch. I then explore the boardwalk, which is like an english pier in some ways, but extends along the seafront, rather than out to sea. Think of a Promenade made out of decking, and you’ll have the idea. The boardwalk extend for two miles, and the beach a mile or so longer – I walk its entire length, and further, until I reach a nature reserve centre. Areas of the beach I have passed are fenced off, to protect the locally endangered Piping Plover. There was supposed to be an exhibit at the centre, but it does not appear to be open, so I make my way back.It is a beautiful day, but the beach is very quiet, as the holiday season will not really start until the following week. A few visiting families and a lot of teenagers, and only two of the 6 or more beaches are officially open (i.e. have lifeguards). I walk along the main beach and have a paddle, then sit for a while, before having a final look around the little shops there and getting a taxi back.Dave is out tonight, as his son has a drum recital, so for dinner, I walk down to a chinese takeaway, that also has a couple of tables, for eating in. I have a superb sesame chicken, with rice and spring roll – the serving is huge, and too much for me to finish.I return, and soon after, Dave arrives home, and we get out the guitars again, until bedtime.

June 22, 2004
I wake up and start to get ready while Victor cooks breakfast – waffles with bacon and maple syrup, washed down with tea. Victor, Lara and myself have a relaxed breakfast, and then they help me to the station with all my luggage. The backpack I bought to take home is now in full use, so I have that, my CPAP machine and a suitcase. We arrive in plenty of time, and have time for a soda at the station, and then I say goodbye and catch my train. The journey from Boston to New York is pleasant enough, but completely uneventful. I arrive at New York Penn Station and find I only have 10 minutes to find the right platform for my Long Island commuter train, but I make it just in time, even with my luggage. I get off at Wantagh, and catch a cab to Dave Weingart’s. He is at work, but has left a key for me.I relax for a while, make a cuppa, and raid Dave’s fridge for bread and cheese, as I have missed lunch. Dave turns up from work, and suggests we eat in tonight – he cooks pasta with an alfredo sauce, and we open a bottle of wine. We then go out for a drive in his car, and visit a nearby mall, where we explore various electronic and gadget shops, as well as looking into the local sports shop, where the have a 2-storey climbing wall. Needless too say, I have no desire to try it.We head back to Dave’s and play some music and talk, over a couple of beers.

June 21, 2004
I wake up, expecting aches and pains, and am not disappointed. However, although my legs are shaky, I am pleased that my feet are sound – no blisters.Robin cooks scrambled egg for breakfast and we drive into Boston. I am going to be staying at Victor and Lara’s tonight, so we have my luggage with me.We arrive at Victor and Lara’s home in Harvard at about 11am. Victor is going to be busy today, but Lara is coming with us. We down to the visitor centre on Boston Common, and grab some maps.Today we are going to walk Boston’s freedom trail, which is a city walk, marked by red bricks set in the sidewalk. We are not going to follow the trail exactly, but do the best bits. The first step is lunch, so we head through Faneuil Hall Marketplace to Quincy Market. This is an old market building, which has been restored and converted into a large food court. The whole market is not unlike Covent Garden in some respects. We all have clam chowder, which sets me up for the day.We follow the trail past Paul Revere’s house, and up by the Old North Church and Copps Hill Burial Ground. We then walk north until we reach the water – the trail from there heads west and then north across the bridge. However that stretch of the trail is not particularly interesting, so instead we opt for a water taxi across the water.The water taxi is inexpensive, and is a refreshing break from our walk, with a pleasant breeze. As we cross the water, we can look back and see the Boston skyline, with an interesting combination of old and new buildings. Ahead, we can see the USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”.Alas, we discover that tours of the ship are not available on Mondays, but we have a good look at it from a distance, and then head for the Constitution museum, which tells the story of the ship, and of the foundation of the US navy, dating back to times where merchant ships required protection from Barbary Corsairs.Next, I am persuaded to head up to the Bunker Hill monument – my muscles complain that it is uphill again but thankfullly, Robin and Lara don’t want to ascend the monument itself. We listen to a park ranger give a very good talk on the monument – paradoxically, the Bunker Hill monument is not on Bunker Hill. The battle it commemorates is called the battle of Bunker Hill, but actually took place on Grebe Hill, the site of the monument. Furthermore, this American monument celebrates a battle won by the British, albeit at a great cost, in lives and morale.Weretrace our steps and catch a water taxi back, and after a wander round, make our way to the T station, and head back to Harvard. As arranged, Jonathon joins us for the evening, and the five of us all head out for dinner. We decide to go for Mexican food again, which I enjoyed last night, but when we got there I also see New Orleans cuisine on the menu, so I opt for catfish cooked in a cream and shrimp sauce, served with jambolia. The food is perfect and we have a great time. We return to Victor and Lara’s. Jonathon had earlier told us about a B-movie called “Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle”, and Victor has it on DVD. We settle down to watch this unbelivably bad, yet funny, movie. Jonathon leaves after a while, as he has seen it, and has too work in the morning. Robin stays until the end, and then we say goodbye and she heads home. I chat for a while longer to Victor and Lara, while using their local WiFi connection to catch up a bit on email and journal uploads, then go to bed.

June 20, 2004
Before I arrived, Robin has asked me if I want to go hiking. I explain my current fitness, and that I am carrying too much weight for anything too strenuous, but that I should be able to handle a walk of about 4-5 miles. After all, I have been doing more than that each day while walking around Washington.Of course, city walking is not the same as hiking, and what we end up doing is more extreme than hiking.We drive to Franconia Notch State Park, in the White Mountains, about 100 miles north of Nashua. Franconia Notch is where the Old Man of the Mountain, a natural rock formation in the shape of a profile, could be seen. Alas, the Old Man is no longer there, due to a rockslide in recent years.We take the aerial tramway up Cannon mountain, which travels a horizontal distance of just one mile, but climbing vertically 2,022 feet to a summit 4,200 feet above sea level. We follow the path around the summit, admiring the view, and then have to decide – do we take the tram down, or do we walk back down by the Kinsman Ridge Trail?I considered telling Robin and Jonathon to walk down, and I will take the tram, and meet them at the bottom. However, the trail doesn’t look too bad, and I want to do the walk, so I choose to go ahead.Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t stay as simple as it starts – sandy paths gives way to granite rock to step over in many places – perfectly safe, but a lot more effort to walk over. I am finding it more tiring than I thought, but we just take it a bit easier. We reach a point where, at our current pace, Jonathon thinks we only have another half hour or so to go. Unlike us, he didn’t eat breakfast, and is getting hungry. He asks if we mind if he goes on ahead, to grab a sandwich while we carry on slow but steady.However, soon after he goes, my legs begin to give out. It’s not that I am tired exactly – I am not even out of breath – but I am using different muscles in going downhill and keeping my balance, and they have had enough. I can carry on, but I am less sure of my footing; and although there is absolutely no risk on this much used trail, the last thing I need is a twisted ankle – both there on the trail, and in the middle of my holiday.So we take it slowly, with me sitting down whenever my legs demand it, and taking some of the larger steps by simply sitting down and sliding. Robin is great – not only patient, but chatting and joking, and although I am struggling along, I am stll enjoying myself.Over two hours has passed since Jonathon left us, and I am beginning to wander when we will get to the end. Then there is a welcome sight – Jonathon coming back up the trail, with water and snack bars. At about the same time, Robin finds an excellent branch which can be used as a walking stick – I find it not only takes some weight off my legs, but it helps my balance, and gives me more confidence. I follow Robin and Jonathon down, and we arrive back at the Tramway centre. We get something to eat and drink, and I buy a t-shirt – not just as a souvenir, but because mine is soaked.Robin is sorry for over-estimating her own level of fitness, which meant she thought this trail would be ok for me. I am a little sorry that I have held Robin and Jonathon up – it is hours later than expected, and we have to cancel our plans for driving further north in the afternoon.However, no-one seems to mind that much, and the fact remains that I *have* walked that trail. In reflection, it was really more than I am currently capable of, but it also showed me that I am capable of walks far longer than I have been doing at home. I am very glad I decided to do it.We drive back towards Nashua, stopping for Mexican food on the way back – I am never too tired toeat. I had a combination platter with enchiladas, tacos and refried beans, followed by a fried icecream with honey.Jonathon drops us back to Robin’s, but can only stay a while – he is working tomorrow, while we are going to take on Boston.

June 19, 2004
Robin cooks a very civilised breakfast of blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. She has got a lot to do before people arrive for the housefilk at 2pm, so I pack my things away, and offer to help.Robin has only just uncovered her pool for the summer – she has removed leaves and things that had got under the cover, and set up the filter, but there is still a lot of small gunk in there, so I spend an hour or two in the sun, skimming the water. Eventually it is clean enough to use her pool hoover to get the finer silt and rubbish out.The housefilk goes well – about an equal number of new faces and familiar ones from Conterpoint and earlier conventions. I enjoy listening and singing, although I am surprised that a couple of songs, while enjoyed, are based on films no-one appears to have seen – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Usual Suspects”. Admitted the latter is not science fiction, but I am surprised that people haven’t seen ” Eternal Sunshine” – I always assume that the UK gets film releases loong after the US.Nonetheless, the session is enjoyed by all, Robin’s food (and that brought by others) is delicious, and I get to experience a MASS FILC business meeting first hand (in the US, many filk groups have set themselves up as non-profit legal entities, which require a certain amount of formal business)Jonathon appears towards the end of the day. He was disappointed at the confusion yesterday, and has been sorting out car problems today, but will be going out with myself and Robin tomorrow.

June 18, 2004
Get up early, at 05:30, and am down in reception by just past 6am. My ride is booked for 06:30, and the hotel staff offer coffee first, but I prefer to get down to the station, so they take me down there. Arrive to find the train is delayed by an hour, and won’t be in until 08:30, but no matter – I am there on time, and my luggage is checked in. There are vending machines for snacks and drinks, so I settle down to wait.The train arrives, and we are loaded on. In some ways, the train is more like air travel than UK trains, even with an optional baggage check, which I use for my case. A guard/steward supervises the boarding, insisting on taking families and couples first, so they can be seated together, and ensuring that seats are filled up in a logical way. He later tells us that it is Amtrak policy, particularly in the case of mothers with children, and although single travellers may gripe, and try and jump to the front of the queue, it is one that is enforced, even if it means moving people to accomodate families boarding later. Today, it is fairly orderly, and I am lucky enough top get a window seat by and emergency exit, which gives me legroom. I am joined by someone even taller than myself, who also appreciates the space.The train finally moves off at aboout 08:40, and I am on my way. According to my GPS, we are doing about 80mph between stations, and 20-40mph on approaches to stops.At Syracuse, they announce a smoke stop, a stop of about 10 minutes at the station, for people to have a cigarette on the platform, or just stretch their legs. The train itself is no-smoking – there is a rush for the door, some folk getting ready to light up while still wallking down the aisle.The journey continues, without anything of particular note. I call ahead to Robin’s friend, Victor, to let people know the train left an hour late and appears due to arrive late as well. Unfortunately, what I dont realise (and the guard doesn’t tell us) is the train continues to be delayed, and is eventually two hours late on arrival. On arrival I am met by Robin and Victor. Robin’s boyfriend, Jonathon, was also expected, but is missing – we later discover that he didn’t get the message about the original delay, and was there at the station two hours earlier. We walk back with my bags to Victor’s apartment, where I meet his SO, Lara, and the four of us go to dinner at a place that does barbecue. It is a bit loud for talking (there is a quieter basement, but it is closed today), but the food is great.After dinner, we go back to Victor and Lara’s for a while, then Robin and I hit the road for Nasua, which is about 40 minutes drive to the north. We arrive at Robin’s house, and, as Robin want to prepare some food for the following day, chat while she works. In fact, we end up chatting until 3am.